Interview with TSN Soccer Analyst Kristian Jack

If you’re a fan in Canada of the beautiful game of football (or ‘soccer’ as us North Americans like to call it), you are no doubt acquainted with the excellent analysis and insight provided by Kristian Jack. As a former host of the Footy Show on The Score, KJ broke down the finer points of the game and the formations in an eloquent manner, that made casual fans interested and hardcore fans want more.

Kristian Jack

“That’s an odd shaped football pitch!”

A staple in his footy podcasts were music, primarily music from his homeland of England. Now at TSN and TSN Radio, Kristian Jack took some time to chat with me last week about his favourite band, his favourite football chants, James Sharman’s fake accent, and predictions for the 2014 World Cup. Grab a cuppa – it’s a lengthy chat (and so interesting to me, that I didn’t edit it down too much).

Football Journalism and Coming to Canada

PeteHatesMusic (PHM): What made you get into football journalism or journalism in general?

Kristian Jack (KJ): I want to school for journalism. When I was younger, I was quite fortunate at a pretty young age that I knew what I wanted to do. I love sports and I loved to write. My favourite class in school with English. I just loved writing. The only time I’ve never enjoyed writing was actually during my GCSE high school final exam. I got so sick during my English literature exam, I remember writing 15 pages of text and then slumping on my desk. The next day I realized I had chickenpox.

PHM: Oh really? Wow.

KJ: I have always loved to write and I’ve always known that sport is what I wanted to do. That is kind of what I did. So then I went into journalism school and everyone tells you it takes you a long time to get in the sports, so I did news for a while at my newspaper. Hated it. Thankfully I wasn’t in for very long. I eventually moved to a different paper and covered a lot of local sports and non-league football. And then I came over here in 2000 and didn’t really get anywhere in terms of the media; I couldn’t really find anything. Then I interned at The Score and I guess the rest is history.

PHM: So is that why you came to Canada, for journalism?

KJ: No I didn’t. I gave everything up and quit everything and my mom and dad and brother did the same. We made a life decision. I was almost 22, and we made the decision when I was 20, that as a family we did not want to live in England anymore. So we gave everything up for a new life, a better life we hoped. We have created this thankfully. We just fell in love with North America. I spent a lot of time in North America as a teenager and particularly in the US. I interned at CNN in 1996 in Atlanta for a semester.

PHM: Oh, so this is why you like the Braves.

KJ: Exactly, yes. You know it. I love my Braves. We came here in 1997 on vacation and fell in love with it. We were invited to stay at someone’s home, rather than do the whole hotel thing. We kind of saw how Canadians lived for a couple of weeks. And then went home and started the process. It took over 2 years and moved here. Well, my parents moved here in October of 1999 with my brother and I came in February 2000.

Connections Between Football Chants and Music

PHM: Very cool. I think there are a lot of connections between football and music…

KJ: Yes.

PHM: …England has arguably produced some of the rest rock bands of all time and England is renowned for the football fandom and cheers. Do you think singing and cheering is simply a major cultural aspect of the English?

KJ: Yes, I think that is a great point. I still think the fact that the English teams chant and the whole part of that side of things is a big, big reason of the appeal of the Premier League. First of all, Britain as an industry or country is a mess in terms of exports around the world. So the Premier League is first of all one of their greatest exports in the world right now.

PHM: Definitely.

KJ: I will sit here and watch a game and my wife will constantly say “Oh what are they saying now, what are they chanting now?” It has just become one of those things where if you don’t know it, people want to know it. And I think that definitely relates to music. I think that people in Britain, more than anybody else that I’ve ever met in a lot of other countries, they look at music as a way of release. They look at it as a way of it translates to their enjoyment away from everything else going on. Whether that is music in a club, music in a pub, music that they’re singing everywhere you go, whether you go to a pub and there’s no music on, that just doesn’t happen. Even little Jimmy down the road with his guitar is getting invited to play at the pub on a Thursday night, that is just the way it is. That is just what they do, it is just very different to over here.

Selection of Football Chants in England

PHM: Definitely. I agree. What is the best football cheer you’ve ever heard or some of the best ones you can recall?

KJ: I like the Bobby Zamora chant. Do you know that one?

PHM: Yes I do.

KJ: I like that one. That is fun. I’m trying to think of other ones that aren’t so scandalous. The Villa chant “my old man said be a Blues fan” and that goes on. There is a big chant about your dad trying to tell you to be a Birmingham fan and you just carry on and say “no, you’re a cunt” and all of this stuff and it goes on and on and stuff, that is one of my favourites, too. The new one that has really taking off is getting sacked in the morning. It is overly used now. It used to be funny but I guess with the increase of managers getting sacked now every week you are getting to hear it more often. There was another one – have you ever heard of a player called Andy Goram?

PHM: I have not.

KJ: Andy Goram was a Scottish goalkeeper and it might have been when he was with Rangers. He came out and said that he had some problems psychologically. He also said he was getting some help. And you know the chant “There’s only 1…” and fill in the first name? The home fans were chanting “There’s only 2 Andy Goram’s!”

PHM: Ah yes, I have heard this one before!

KJ: That was a fantastic chant, and that was big in England. Another one is based on the show in England in the 90’s called Fantasy Football League. And it was absolutely huge. It was hosted by Frank Skinner and Dave Baddiel. They were a couple of comedians and they ran a show every week that basically took the piss out of football. There was a player for Nottingham Forest called Jason Lee. I don’t know if you remember the story.

PHM: I actually don’t.

KJ: Anyways Jason Lee had this crazy haircut and it looked like a pineapple! It was that bad. So Frank Skinner outed him and said he’s got a pineapple on his head. The next few weeks, all of the fans were chanting “He’s got a pineapple on his head” (to the tune of He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands). And it ruined his career! He was mentally scarred by this chant. He just became known as that guy. Every time you talk to a football fan now in England, and you mention Jason Lee; actually, you don’t even need to mention his name. You just need to say “the pineapple on his head guy. So yeah, those are some of my favourites.

Fantasy Football League – Best of Jason Lee Gags

KJ and Music

PHM: Those are great. Did you go to any big UK music festivals growing up, such as Leeds, Glastonbury, Reading?

KJ: I tell you what, I never went to festivals because I was usually at sports. My mates would go but I was always at sports on the weekends. If I wasn’t reporting on them as a young reporter then I was usually watching them, be it cricket test match, football games, usually in the summer Grand Prix, stuff like that. I have been to a lot of concerts though. I went to watch The Verve, which was kind of like a festival in Wigan, which is their hometown, They had it in a huge park, so that was kind of like a festival, as they had a few other bands opening up for them. But I never went to a festival in terms of staying over for the weekend.

PHM: So what bands would we find on your stereo these days?

KJ: Ugh, these days?!

PHM: Or in general, haha.

KJ: Well, my favourite band ever is a band called Cast. Do you know Cast?

Cast – Flying

PHM: I do.

KJ: You do?! I’m impressed. There aren’t many Canadians who know Cast at all. Even people who I know who are really big music people over here, they just don’t know. (note: I love me some Britpop!) I went to see them in Blackburn and it remains to this day to be the greatest gig I ever went to.

PHM: Oh really?

KJ: Actually, my mate at college was somehow connected to the drummer, so he got us backstage afterwards. But that was irrelevant. I never have been and I never will be a star struck kind of guy, I don’t care to meet people. I used to work at a local radio station and I was backstage at a festival that I worked at once, that wasn’t anywhere close to the size of the festival you mentioned, but the Spice Girls were backstage at the festival, but it just didn’t bother me. Anyway, back to Cast more importantly, they were my favourite band for sure. Just growing up and the college era of the 90s, obviously Oasis were huge but they were too huge for me. I like them now better than I did then. I appreciate them more. I was just a huge Cast guy back then, Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker stuff like that was my kind of stuff in the 90’s. These days I like the Courteeners.

PHM: Okay, cool.

The Courteeners – You Overdid It Doll

KJ: A lot of their stuff reminds me of that era. I don’t get to listen to it as much as I’d like. The thing is with my business is that if I’m working, I’m constantly listening to sports radio and podcasts and stuff like that. If I get in a car with my brother, he will pull out all of his music and listen to it. And that just doesn’t happen for me. I wish I could do that sometimes, when I try to switch off, I will put that stuff on. That’s when I’ll put that stuff on, or some of the old stuff. I can’t think of anything else. It usually all comes back to Britain to be honest. The last concert I went to, I took my daughter to see One Direction. If I’m in the car with her, that’s what I’m listening to at the moment.

PHM: When you were talking about Britain’s biggest export earlier and you said the Premier League, I was going to say One Direction.

KJ: I just watched a movie with them over the holidays because my daughter got it. And I just couldn’t believe it – like I knew they were big. But I could not believe the places they were going and the amount of people attracted to these people in the cities. It is no wonder they are doing a stadium tour this year.

PHM: My cousins are from the small town where Harry Styles, the guy with the crazy hair who dates all the Hollywood stars is from.

KJ: He is from Holmes Chapel, right?

PHM: Yes, you’re right! Very good. That is where my relatives live, so there are some big Manchester City fans over there.

KJ: Right.

PHM: Anyway, I was over there on Christmas Eve and we were in the pub. I guess Harry was back for Christmas or something, and there’s only about three pubs in that town. We heard girls screaming and running up and down the one street in town…

KJ: No way.

PHM: …going from pub to pub, and he was in the same pub we were.

KJ: Ah, that’s hilarious.

PHM: My cousin actually taught him, as he is a teacher. He taught him as a little kid. Small world.

KJ: It really is.

Thoughts on Toronto FC and Major League Soccer

PHM: Back to football questions because that is your bread and butter. A two part question and it is a little more exciting based on today’s rumours and confirmations (note: this was the day the Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley news hit last week). Where do you see the Toronto FC in 5 years’ time and where do you see the MLS in 5 years’ time?

KJ: Wow, great question. Toronto FC in 5 years’ time could be anywhere. I mean I’m not just saying that. They could be MLS Champions. It is the way that the league is set up. It just opens up teams. I mean Kansas City are the current champions. 5 years ago people would have laughed at that.

PHM: Yeah!

KJ: They have re-branded themselves, and they are the model franchise in the league. This is not a league where there are teams that will dominate every year. Yes LA Galaxy are there but there are so many things set up for parity, not only within the league structure for salary caps, but also the fact that, it’s not really a lottery, but the fact that that they have playoffs, as well.

PHM: Yes, anyone can win.

KJ: They can have an average 30 game campaign and just get into the playoffs. And then just play great football and win.

PHM: Like Chelsea and Champions League.

KJ: Yes. Precisely. It is a completely different tournament. As for Major League Soccer in 5 years’ time?

PHM: In terms of are they expanding too fast, are they going to keep growing or are they going to fall flat on their face and go away?

KJ: I think financially they are in great hands. I think that they are run by some extremely smart business people who know how to run the league. Right now, you have got Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, and now TFC and Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, so if you can get players like that, I think that is very important. I feel it is important that MLS has top American players, I really do. I just think now that you have Dempsey, Donovan, and Bradley playing in the league, it is going to make a difference. The World Cup brings eyes to the game and people will tune in to the US team this year, and they are going to look at these players, and in the past they would disappear, as they have gone back over to Europe and wouldn’t have been heard of again. But now, they are playing in North America, so I think the league will be fine. As for expansion, I would hope that they would not go much more than 20. If in 5 years’ time we are talking 24, that would be too many.

PHM: Like Euro.

KJ: Don’t get me started on that!

PHM: Will Toronto FC make the playoffs in 2014?

KJ: Yes, they will. New England made it this year. They were absolutely pathetic the year before. Back to my original point, that it is not that difficult. If you get your ducks in a row and if you were organized, and you can score goals, you can we get in. So yes, they will.

PHM: Why does your former partner at the Score James Sharman have a fake accent?

KJ: (Laughter) Oh, how do I answer this one! He has a fake accent to differentiate himself away from me. Because even now wherever I go, I still get recognized and people come up to me and say “Hey James, why are you a Liverpool fan?” To them I say, “I am NOT a Liverpool fan and my name is not James!” So that is the only way he can differentiate himself from me, so I will go with that.

KJ’s Annual Football Tournament

PHM: Brilliant. Tell me about your annual football tournament and the charities that it helps benefit.

KJ: We are six years through now, and we have raised close to $20,000 I think. Not bad for a one man organizing committee.

PHM: Yes, that’s really good.

KJ: I used to do it for World Vision, which is a charity that is really close to my heart, that my wife and I we sponsor a number of children in different positions around the world. But I have made it a little smaller the last couple of years. We have targeted really small companies, and charities that can make a difference. This year, I worked with the chairman of a company called Share Noel, which is a local charity here in Ontario. It made sure families have a couple presents and, more importantly, a hot dinner on Christmas Day. We gave some money to Brick By Brick through my daughter’s school, to build houses in Haiti, so that is important. Also, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut that really affected everybody I think, but perhaps more so those with families. We have a connection with them, and they have a charity called Newtown Kindness developed in honour of one of the girls who lost her life, a 6 year old girl named Charlotte Bacon. And also to Gulu United, which is a charity – well, it’s not really a charity. It’s a small soccer team in Uganda that I’m working with with another friend of mine Adrian Bradbury. We are just working on something there with this team in Africa to try to get a chance to get a couple of players and maybe make a difference and maybe make it as a pro career. So Gulu United are in Uganda, and they need some help so we give some money towards to them.

Gulu United Indiegogo Campaign (which was successful)

PHM: That’s all really great stuff.

KJ: Thanks. Maybe you can play next year.

Rapid Fire Questions

PHM: I will definitely try! A few rapid fire questions for you. The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

KJ: Beatles every time.

PHM: Oasis or Blur?

KJ: Oasis.

PHM: Liam or Noel Gallagher?

KJ: Noel Gallagher every time.

PHM: What surprising name makes the England World Cup team?

KJ: Oh, what a great question. (pauses) I guess Ross Barkley is not surprising anymore. What about (pauses) Jordan Henderson?

PHM: Okay. What’s surprising name misses the plane?

KJ: (no hesitation) Frank Lampard.

PHM: Oh, that will be interesting. Does England make it out of the group?

KJ: No

PHM: No! Last question. Who wins the 2014 World Cup?

KJ: (pauses) Argentina. Over Germany. That’s my pick.

PHM: Head to the bookies! Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

KJ: My pleasure.


Pop on over to TSN to read the latest insightful article by Kristian Jack, and stay tuned for all of his thoughts on both the upcoming Toronto FC season and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. You can follow KJ on Twitter for all sorts of insightful football nuggets.

Follow PeteHatesMusic on Twitter for drunken rants about Toronto FC, Man Utd, and when England go out on penalties at every football tournament from now until 2050.

(note: parts of this interview were edited for length)

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